After i-messaging back forth with Marit my wife, I jokingly commanded Siri to pass along this message: “You need to get back to work. You have a husband to support.” Here’s what Siri messaged: “You need to get back to work. You have a has-been to support.”
Something we all face in life frequently, daily often enough, is whether to be discouraged. Some people size up situations and decide, “Yep, that’s too much. Now I’m discouraged.” When we do this we can almost feel our insides, our spirit, start to withdraw, shrink, and shrivel up. Don’t give in to that overreaction and wither away.
Scripture says, “Why are you cast down, O my soul…. Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.”
Most of us at some point in our lives understand we’re not going to do all that we thought we were going to do or get all we wanted to get. We shouldn’t be discouraged about this. God needs someone with just your skills, and experiences, and faithful outlook to do good things. You’re right where you’re supposed to be.
So don’t give up. Keep finding the blessings in the midst of the battle. Know that you’re serving the one who needs you at your post.
Many of us have realized we’re getting older, and things aren’t what they used to be—we aren’t what we used to be. That’s often very discouraging to many people, especially in Boca Raton, where age is a four letter word. But 2 Cor 4:16 says, “So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.”
Don’t value yourself only as a physical body. Set your sights on growing stronger and more active spiritually in Christ.
The same thing that’s true when we exercise our physical bodies is true when we are faced with exercising our spiritual bodies: When things are tough and draining and making you a little sore then we have the chance to become stronger spiritually.
I want to share with you a clip from the movie Rudy. Rudy’s dream of running out onto the Notre Dame football field doesn’t look like it’s going to come true. So he quits. He gets straightened up by the head of the custodial staff where he’s been working.
Our Bible tells us Jesus encounters a man with a withered hand in a synagogue on Sabbath. Instead of shrinking in the face of opposition, he tells
everyone there’s no limit on when God heals, certainly no human-made limit.
Christ refuses to be discouraged. Instead, he gets to work. After he reminds every one of the surpassing value of a human being even on the Sabbath, Jesus turns to the man with a withered hand and tells him to stand. He tells him it’s time to get up. He tells him he can’t do anything with him if he’s going to sit there and hide.
You need to take a stand for yourself.
Sometimes we ought to take life’s obstacles as personal challenges to us. When you’re facing opposition that’s not the time to lie back down. Instead, get out of your seat and keep doing the right thing, the truer thing. The Lord can get you where you need to be if at least you’re in a ready position.
The truth is Christ is a little fired up. He’s not exactly in a good mood, says another Gospel’s version of this story. He’s indignant at the ease with which some are willing to keep this ailing man in his present condition.
So from the pulpit, he points to the man, and more directly to his hand, and says, ‘Stretch out your hand.” That’s it—stretch out your hand. Stretch out exactly where he has the toughest time stretching.
The man could have said, “Wait a minute, that’s easy for someone like you to say.” But he didn’t. He could have said, “I can’t. It’s paralyzed.” But he didn’t. The man could have argued with Jesus, and spent his energy in that way. But he didn’t.
He refused to live any longer in fear of what might happen. He stepped out in faith. He trusted. He did what the Lord said was the good thing to do, the right thing to do, the timely thing to do. He stretched out his hand, and it was no longer withered.
You’ve got to stretch precisely where it’s toughest to stretch, right where you’re hurting or you’re hurting others. You need to stretch where your life is cramping up, where others’ have problems with you, where you’re having trouble with yourself.
Sometimes I’m asked by someone how tall I am. When this happens I’m faced with how precisely truthful I’m going to be. I’m six foot four. Or am I?
I mean I was six foot four. I’m not sure I’ve shrunk some but it seems like I have. I haven’t been measured lately, but with my herniated discs and my hip pain, it seems like I’m not standing as tall as I used to stand. And there’s always the age thing, too.
So how truthful do I have to be when someone asks me a question that reminds me so starkly of my shrinking? I end up telling them I’m six foot four. Not because it makes me feel younger or better, but because I’m wearing shoes.
I simply leave out the fact I’m taking my shoes into consideration. They didn’t ask and after all they’re looking at me and my height with my shoes on, right?
We end up shrinking physically but we never have to spiritually. We may wrinkle in our skin but we don’t have to shrivel in our soul. Don’t wither under the pressures of what you face. Count it all joy to be challenged.
In scripture, we see how discouraged Peter was when he realized he wasn’t as courageous or as faithful as he thought he was. Jesus had warned him he would deny him, but Peter wouldn’t believe it. His pride kept him from seeing himself clearly.
Peter denied he was Jesus’ disciple the very next time he was questioned. He ran away ashamed of how easy it was for him to shrivel up and fail.
But Peter didn’t stay there. In no time, he was back on his feet, and in his faith. The rest of his life he didn’t waver from his love of and loyalty to the Lord.
You might be able to figure out who put it this way, “It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.” Sir Edmund Hillary, who was the first to climb Mt. Everest.
Every day we are soaking in something, both intentionally and unintentionally, by the things we watch, listen to, read and observe. Every day we multiply those effects by what we think, say, and do.
Become a better gauge of how you’re filling yourself. Keep alert to whether you’re standing up and stretching yourself or withdrawing and withering.
This reminds me of the two oranges I saw when I opened a bag of cuties recently. One was a juicy orange; it had reached its full potential. It was plump and filled up. But another one was wrinkled already. It was shriveled. When I peeled it, it was dried up.
The easy thing is to believe the negative. Stretch yourself to find the positive. Reach out to grasp what God has coming your way.
When athletes don’t get enough nutrients and don’t drink enough water, they get cramps. One of the most painful cramps an athlete like a soccer player can get is a cramp in his or her calf. All of a sudden they collapse to
the ground and roll around in sharp pain, grabbing their calf. The calf tightens up into an intensely hard slab of muscle. It goes away after away with some massaging and water, but that muscle will be sore for a while after.
Elijah was afraid for his life because of Queen Jezebel. So he ran and ran and ran, literally, as far as he could from Jerusalem. He finally stopped at Mt. Horeb and found himself a cave to crawl into. He was planning on staying there indefinitely. But that’s not what happened.
The next morning, God asked him what he was doing there. When Elijah told him he was in danger and he had to stay there to be safe, the Lord told him to stand up and walk to the mouth of the cave.
Elijah wasn’t permitted to hide out and wither away and shrivel up to nothing in the back of a cave far away from where the Lord needed him to be. He had to stand up and walk out of the dark and into the light. Elijah needed to do some stretching.
You’re not the only one who gets discouraged. But you’re the only one responsible for stretching out your faith and your walk with the Lord. Get out of the cave you’re hiding in. Open up to the word of the Lord in your heart.
Elijah was heading in one direction but he was soon turned around and headed in the right direction. When something’s not going well, then it’s time to make a turn around.
Perhaps we had such hopes for our spiritual life, but it hasn’t come to pass. Raise that up to God.
You know you should be willing to do more as a volunteer or in the Lord’s service but you keep making excuses or finding other things to occupy your time. God can stretch you so you can do better and bring the blessing.
You thought you’d be more comfortable by now being a dad or a mom but you’re not sure what you’re doing so often you feel like a failure. Lift your worries to the Lord and receive some wisdom.
Don’t shrink from the challenges of your life. You’ve got a friend who’s awfully good at getting people back on their feet. The Lord can stretch you in places you didn’t believe could be stretch, and make you whole.
Fill yourself up with faith. Stop hiding yourself behind fears. Take life on as a personal challenge to bring the best out of you, and to do your best for the Lord.
Can the church say Amen?